Monday, November 26, 2012

Winter is on the way

Snow is in the forecast. Chickadees and titmice frantically load up at the feeder. Days get shorter. Birds that have spread out through spring and summer come together in flocks again. As the sun sets, there is the incessant flight of crows to their roost. Robins are massing. By day, geese strip the farm fields of summer's leftovers, then settle together in great rafts on nearby ponds. For comfort, security, and warmth? Or are they simply all attracted to the same sheltered places near dwindling food stocks? The mill pond at South Windsor is the avian Grand Central Station. All routes cross here.

Ceaseless honking. Sporadic squabbles. Strange outliers accepted. The solitary Snow Goose. The Barnacle Goose. The one Brant that doesn't know it's meant to be at the beach, not here in the middle of farmland. Four White-fronted Geese, whose orange feet not too long ago probably touched the earth of Greenland, which seems magical to me. The female Black Scoter bobbing limp at the water's edge, her life ending in this improbable place, never making it to the ocean for the winter. A Mallard hybrid who doesn't know his spiffy white bib sets him apart. The shabby-looking Common Merganser that I hope fattens up and makes it through the season.

It seems that every bird as the winter approaches knows that this is a good place to be. Rawk, there goes two Ravens overhead. Great Blue Heron. Red-tailed Hawk. And then there is the peculiar boy with the peculiar dog -- half black Lab, half Chow. The boy proudly proves the dog's Chow ancestry by prising open its willing mouth and showing off its purple tongue to me. "His name's Seamus," he says. "I'm trying to get him to catch one of these geese here, so I can eat it." He throws bread at the birds, which sail around him at a safe distance, watching with canny eyes. "Seamus is an alpha male. He'll attack and kill anything," the boy explains, as the purple-tongued dog snaffles the scattered bread, wags its tail, and lumbers over for a pat, oblivious of the waterfowl.


  1. I loved this. So glad the dog had more sense than the boy did! Love your photos, too. When I try to take photos of the birds on our beach, they all look as though they're about a mile away! Been enjoying your posts through NaBloPoMo this month. I may have to 'follow' before this month is through.

  2. Thanks, Susan! I have to say, the dog was definitely the most sensible creature on land that day: us birders were all just about frozen solid, scanning through thousands of geese for ages trying to find the rare one; it's like looking for a needle in a haystack.